Manipur has been darkened by a surge in violence even in the new year, marked by the tragic demise of at least five individuals and injuries sustained by 17 others, including seven security personnel.
Meitei Muslims targeted in brutal attack in Thoubal
In the district of Thoubal, a chilling incident unfolded on 1 January 2024, as armed miscreants targeted Meitei Muslims in Lilong town, resulting in the cold-blooded execution of five individuals. Reports indicate that the assailants belonged to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), an organisation aligned with the banned Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) – both notorious separatist Meitei groups.
Among the victims were Meitei Pangals, a community comprising approximately 8% of Manipur’s population, known for their neutrality amidst the ongoing ethnic-religious clashes between Meiteis and Kukis. The conflict, escalating since 3 May, has claimed over 200 lives, and displaced 70,000 individuals.
The bloodshed in Thoubal was allegedly triggered by a dispute over funds derived from illegal drug trade. According to official accounts quoted by the media, PLA members visited the residence of an individual facing narcotics-related charges, leading to a gathering of around 1,000 people outside the suspect’s home. In the ensuing chaos, PLA operatives unleashed indiscriminate gunfire, resulting in fatalities and injuries.
The Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), in response to the incident, acknowledged affiliation with the gunmen and announced an internal inquiry. Both the PLA and RPF operate in violation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
A meeting between Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and representatives of the Meitei Pangal community, civil society organisations, and religious leaders on 3 January addressed concerns related to the Thoubal killings. Following the government’s acceptance of demands outlined by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Lilong, the community agreed to receive the bodies of those killed in the militant attack.
Border clash leaves security personnel injured
On 2 January, a clash between security forces and an armed group near the India-Myanmar border in Chavanphat village resulted in injuries to seven security personnel. Chief Minister N Biren Singh suggested the involvement of “mercenaries” affiliated with the Kuki National Army (Burma) based in Myanmar.
The injured personnel, including four Manipur police commandos and three Border Security Force members, were airlifted to Imphal, the state capital, and admitted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences. The exchange of gunfire ensued when local women sought the release of two detained men without apparent justification.
Chief Minister Singh, visiting the injured personnel at the hospital, confirmed the dispatch of reinforcements to Moreh. A joint search operation involving state and central forces is underway to apprehend the extremists, with suspicions of foreign mercenaries’ involvement from Myanmar.